Roger Waters | US + THEM (CD/DVD) | (Sony Music Entertainment)
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Pink Floyd fans have had plenty to dig into over the past few months. That’s especially notable since the band officially broke up nearly a quarter century ago, even if some would peg Floyd’s unofficial demise about a decade earlier when Roger Waters left. While guitarist/singer/songwriter David Gilmour has been relatively visible as a solo artist, it has been three years since his last release.
That left Waters and interestingly drummer Nick Mason (the least prolific member of the original quartet) to keep the band’s music alive. Both have done exactly that with Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets ensemble covering the earliest Floyd material on his impressive recent live album, and Waters’ extensive, expansive tours behind The Wall.
The latter’s latest documents his fiery Floyd-heavy European solo tour of 2017-’18, specifically music recorded on the Amsterdam date of that trek. Out of the 22 selections on this release (the DVD has three more), all but four are grabbed from the later, ie: most commercially popular Floyd catalog, running from Dark Side of the Moon through The Wall. The outing was ostensibly to support Waters’ latest opus at the time, 2017’s Is This the Life We Really Want, a Floyd-ish work that captured the group’s melodic, psychedelic space rock vibe. But only a trio of selections are reprised from that, leaving the rest as a virtual Floyd greatest hits show.
And what a show it is.
Anyone who caught Waters’ The Wall concerts or watched the documentary from that 2015 extravaganza knows how explosive and intense his appearances are. Elaborate backing video work, artistic lighting and innovative staging enhance the music, at times to the point of distraction. Waters’ nine piece backing unit (which includes two female vocalists known as Lucius, dressed in identical platinum blond wigs and outfits) is more than adept at recreating Floyd’s most complex studio creations live.
As those who have followed Waters throughout the decades know, he is a big ideas/concept musician. That is very much in evidence here as he makes political points about the overreach of government, including a section excoriating President Trump in name, voice and image, not surprisingly leading into “Money.” At one section of the show, the entire band dons gruesome pig masks (“Dogs” followed by “Pigs [Three Different Ones]) to make some obvious points. There is a less coherent sub-story about a Middle Eastern woman leaving her tyrannically governed homeland, told through pictures. The title track from DSOTM consolidates some of those philosophies too.
It’s a LOT to absorb.
Little of this comes across as powerfully on the double CD. The Floyd songs which dominate the proceedings are generally similar enough to the originals that you may as well listen to them instead of hearing these somewhat updated but mostly note-for-note reproductions.
But the DVD/Blu-ray is an astonishing document. It captures the essential creative cinematic elements that made the gig so memorable, even unforgettable, with multiple high definition cameras and a surround sound mix that puts you in the middle of the band and audience. The editing captures the eye-opening visual elements without the fast-cut caffeinated feeling too many concert films promote. It also includes two more songs, notably “Comfortably Numb,” although it’s oddly on an extras menu and not incorporated into the flow of the gig. A fascinating 15-minute documentary takes you into rehearsals and backstage, revealing how the production was produced both musically and visually.
By any measure, it’s a formidable reproduction of an extravagant, often mouth-dropping spectacle all Floyd admirers will cherish. Even those who aren’t will find it a riveting experience, captured for posterity and unlikely to be duplicated.